One basketball team trying to bounce back from an excruciating loss takes on another team that just went through the process.
Gonzaga’s first game after a last-second, 64-63 road loss to Butler comes against BYU, which suffered a 70-69 home loss to Saint Mary’s on Matthew Dellavedova’s 35-foot shot last week, tonight at 8 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The circumstances weren’t quite the same. GU led by one and had possession with 3.5 seconds left, but turned the ball over on an inbounds pass. BYU took a 69-67 lead on Tyler Haws’ basket with 2.5 ticks remaining, but Dellavedova’s runner connected as time expired. The Cougars (15-5, 5-1 WCC) rebounded three days later to hand San Diego its first WCC loss, 74-57.
“Our entire team knows it was a good game, a good fight. I think everybody is still focused,” GU senior forward Elias Harris said. “On the flight back, there’s nothing else you can do but think about that game and what you could have done differently, but it wasn’t meant to be. It happened, so you move on to the next one.”
The next one is big in the WCC standings. If not for Dellavedova’s heroics, BYU would be sitting at 6-0. Instead the Cougars are 5-1 while Saint Mary’s, which has already played at Gonzaga and BYU, remains close behind at 4-1.
The Gonzaga-BYU series has been brief, but interesting. The teams have played five times, including four recent meetings. BYU hammered the Zags 89-67 in the 2011 NCAA tournament and 83-73 in Provo in the first game as conference rivals last season. Gonzaga returned the favor with a 74-63 win at home and a 77-58 victory in the WCC tournament semifinals.
“They’re an NCAA tournament-caliber team,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “They’re an incredible transition offensive team, they play with a tremendous amount of freedom and can shoot the ball at any time from anywhere. They have a lot of firepower inside with (Brandon) Davies and on the outside with Haws and some other shooters. And they throw a lot of different things at you on the defensive end.”
Haws, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound sophomore guard, is a WCC player of the year candidate. He’s had seven straight games with at least 20 points. He’s averaging 21.6 points, 23 per WCC game. In the last 5 minutes of games, Haws is 20 of 27 from the field, 3 of 4 on 3-pointers and 15 of 17 at the free-throw line.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” Bulldogs guard Gary Bell Jr. said. “He’s going to get a lot of our attention.”